Miriam Santiago on RH budget cut: 'Immoral'

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago is the latest addition to the list of reproductive health (RH) law advocates condemning the removal of the P1-billion allocation for contraceptives in the 2016 budget.

"The P1-billion budget cut threatens to deprive some 7 million women of reproductive health services. This abandonment is immoral in a country where some 200 out of 100,000 women who give birth die," the RH law co-sponsor said in a statement Friday, January 8.

Health Secretary Janette Garin earlier said the cut was made during the deliberations of the bicameral conference committee on the 2016 budget. Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said it was "deducted in the Senate."

Either way, Santiago said it is "irreconcilable" for Congress to enact the law in 2012 only to "render the same law inutile" 3 years later.

"The enemies of reproductive health never sleep. We, too, must not rest in fighting for women's health," the presidential aspirant said.

Santiago vowed to work to "fully and conscientiously implement" the RH law if elected as the next president. (READ: What happened to the 2016 budget for contraceptives?)

Another champion of the RH law, former PhilHealth director Risa Hontiveros, said the cut is a "direct attack" on the right of women to reproductive health. (READ: Contraceptives in the Philippines: What to use, where to get

"Women from low-income families will be deprived of family planning services, and in reality, these women need the government's program the most," the senatorial aspirant said in a statement Thursday, January 7.

Without the P1-billion allocation for contraceptives, the health department will have to depend on health partners and donors for its program to continue this year. Hontiveros noted, however, that this is not sustainable.

"Relying on support from international funding agencies is not sustainable, and removes government's responsibility to ensure full implementation of the law," she explained.

Hontiveros said she will consult with other advocates to discuss what their next step will be, knowing that the cut will "adversely affect" the implementation of the RH law. (READ: Pia Cayetano looking into P1-B cut in contraceptives budget)

"We did not fight for the RH law just to see it become an unfunded mandate of the government. We will fight for its full implementation for the sake of women and Filipino families," she added. Rappler.com

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.

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